This post was written by Doug Hay of Rock Creek Runner.
Quick: what are the most important personality traits for a runner to have?
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably come up with things like:
- Work ethic
Good list. They’re all relevant to training success. But if that’s your list, then you missed the biggest one.
I’m talking about a less obvious trait. One that incorporates everything listed above and more, and sits at the top of my list for traits of a good runner.
Allow me to explain:
To adventure, as defined by the good folks over at Google, is “to engage in a hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.” Just reading that sends tingles of excitement down my spine.
An adventure is thrilling, so it takes care of the motivation and discipline. An adventure takes you out of your comfort zone, which leaves you focused and tough. An adventure is difficult, fun, and maybe even life-changing.
So why is a sense of adventure so important to running success? Because if you can keep the adventure high, everything else follows suit.
And an adventurous runner is someone I can count on to run in the rain, through the dark, when the streets are crowded or the trails remote.
They’re in it for the experience, not just the workout.
That’s what makes running stick. That’s what keeps you coming back for more.
I like to judge a run not by the pace or distance, but by the number of yelps and amount of time spent smiling.
Yelps mean I’m excited and pushing out of my comfort zone (and pushing my pace or distance in return). Smiles mean I’m having fun, and can’t wait to do it again.
All signs pointing towards adventure.
Adventure is More than Mountains and Deserts
If you were to picture an adventurous run, it would probably involve some remote trail, a mountain, or extreme conditions. Not a route from your front door.
Which is why I love this quote from Jim Dale,
“Adventure is adventure wherever you find it.”
Wherever you find it.
And so today we’re not focusing on climbing mountains or bushwhacking through jungles, but instead turning your everyday run into a unique adventure. An adventure just as exciting and exploratory as any other.
Here are my favorite ways you can use to turn your next run into an adventure:
1. Make it a trail run
New to trail running? Fear not! With a little guidance — and patience — you can quickly learn to run trails, and find them just about anywhere.
2. Go longer
Part of any adventure is exploring the unknown. In running, the unknown is often a new distance. Push yourself to go the extra mile (literally), and discover what’s beyond your previous limit.
If that sounds too intimidating, check out these tips on how to run farther.
3. Focus on the downhill
I have more fun — and let out more yelps — running downhill than at any other time. The speed, quick leg turnover, rapid foot placements, and increased risk is exhilarating. It’s my happy place, especially on the trail.
To tap into that excitement, I’ll include “downhill days” on the schedule, and plan routes that focus on downhills instead of uphills. That may mean repeats, or better, getting dropped off for a point-to-point route that travels mostly downhill.
4. Make your run playful
I’ll admit that I don’t do this enough, but I love turning a run into a game:
- Run curbs, which tests your balance and agility
- Play tag with your group of runners, an easy Fartlek workout
- Hop on rocks
- Don’t step on cracks
The options are endless, and simple to implement.
5. Turn left (or right)
Running is an act of discovery, both of your self and your surroundings, but it’s incredibly easy to get stuck in a rut. Running the same routes over, and over…
… and over, and over.
Shake it up! Turn left out of your front door instead of right (or vice-versa), and down a street or up a hill you’ve never run. Leave with no specific route in mind, or intentionally take yourself to a new part of town. You never know what you’ll discover when you do.
6. Plan a running vacation
Along that same line, planning a running getaway around a training weekend or race is a great way to explore something new.
Or if you can’t plan an entire vacation around running, work your training into a vacation already on the calendar.
7. Discover your city-trail
Salomon Running has recently focused in on this idea of CITYtrails, and I absolutely love it. The principle is simple: turn your city routes into a trail experience. Through an app, they suggest routes for several major cities.
But all that is unnecessary. You can design your own “trails” by incorporating stairs, cutting across fields, or winding directly through a college campus or outdoor shopping center.
Go off the beaten path, explore, and encounter elements that break your stride, pace, and routine.
8. Climb stairs … lots of stairs
When I lived in Washington, D.C., one of my favorite routes included a detour up and down the iconic (and brutal) “Exorcist Stairs” in Georgetown. Those 75 stairs changed everything about the run, and always threw a curve ball into the route.
Long staircases can be found almost anywhere, whether in a parking garage, stadium, or city park. Try incorporating stairs (both up and down) into a bigger route, or focus the entire workout on the steps.
9. Train for an obstacle race
Crawling through mud, over walls, and under nets isn’t for everyone (including myself), but if you’re looking for a new running experience that requires speed, endurance, and strength, obstacle racing could be just the type of adventure you need.
10. Run in the dark
As your vision becomes impaired, other senses are suddenly more aware, and your standard route takes on a whole new personality.
I love running at night — the cool air is exhilarating, the darkness adrenaline-pumping. And besides, now that winter is upon us, post-nightfall running might be your only option.
So instead of hiding from the dark by hitting the treadmill or skipping your run all together, embrace it. To stay safe, strap on a headlamp and reflective gear, tell someone where you’re going, and always check for animal eyes in the woods (just kidding … kind of). If you still feel uncomfortable, convince a friend to tag along.
Don’t Be Scared of a Little Adventure!
Look, I know adventure can be scary … the word “hazardous” is right there in the definition.
But isn’t a little danger, a little time on the edge, exactly what helps us to grow, improve, and feel alive?
It’s time to quit hiding behind routine and comfort, and spend a little more time exploring. Searching for the next adventure.
With adventure comes motivation, hard work, focus, and just about everything else we strive for as runners. So what are you waiting for?
Will you start yelping your way through your next run with me?